ITV News investigation finds retailers encouraging e-scooters to be illegally ridden on roads

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

  • ITV News investigation by Chris Choi and Hannah Kings

An investigation by ITV News shows how some traders are encouraging buyers of electric scooters to break the law.

It’s illegal to use e-scooters on UK roads or pavements, but undercover filming found some retailers advising consumers to do it anyway.

Responding to ITV News’ findings, safety group Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) says government urgently needs new rules for the vehicles.

E-scooters are seen by a growing number of users as an answer to urban congestion and fumes - but people found ignoring the law can face fines and penalty points on their licence.

Yet sales are booming, with buyers frequently using electric scooters to commute. To find out what firms selling e-scooters are telling customers we used hidden cameras in various e-scooter retailers.

At the first outlet ITV News visited, the salesman seems more than happy to recommend them for use on the roads.

He said: "Its basically a bicycle and if you’re gonna ride at 15 miles an hour then ride it on the road like a bicycle.

"Personally, I kind of make sure I'm well away [from traffic]. I almost use the pedestrian phase of traffic lights to make sure I'm well clear of traffic."

Next, seller had ideas on how to fool the police: "I would say get this and go on the pavement, and you would easily look like it's just a push one - nobody would tell that its electric but you can still use it as electric."

A third retailer had tips on how to commute: "You just need to know that it's illegal - still a grey area.

"We use it for commuting and if you use a model like that you should use on a cycle lane or bus lane or on the side of the road."

Nick Lloyd, Road Safety Manager at accident prevention organisation ROSPA, told ITV News there is too much confusion on the status of e-scooters. His group wants the government to urgently frame new policies governing where and how they should be used.

He added road safety design standards are needed, along with detailed policy on wearing helmets, and whether e-scooters can be used in cycle lanes.

The Department for Transport told ITV News: "The government is considering the use of e-scooters... As part of a regulatory review, as announced in March.

"We are actively examining how they can be regulated for safe use on the road, in order to encourage innovative new forms of transport."

Many other nations like Germany and France already have e-scooters rules. The UK is now playing catch-up with technology that is currently being widely used on our roads.

They may only travel at around 15 mph, but it looks like e-scooters have left the UK government far behind.

  • What does the law say?

E-scooters are illegal to ride on public roads in the UK. Credit: AP

While e-scooters can be used on private property (with the landowner’s permission), it is illegal to ride them on the road.

This includes in cycle lanes or tracks or on the pavement.

This is because e-scooters fall within the definition of a motor vehicle under UK law. It means they are subject to laws requiring them to be built and used safely, including requirements for users to have insurance, driving licences, number plates, and helmets.

Offences relating to motor vehicles also apply, for example speeding and dangerous driving offences.

E-scooters are subject to all the requirements a motor vehicle is subject to – MOT, tax, licensing, plus construction and use.

The design of an e-scooter makes these almost impossible to comply with, hence by default they are illegal on both public roads and pavements.

But some users remain adamant they will continue to ride their e-scooters.

Ellen Edgar was stopped by police for using her scooter on her commute across London - now she just uses it for shorter trips.

But she maintains travelling by an environmentally conscious method is more important to her than staying within the law.

She told ITV News: "They're not like a car or scooter, they're not omitting any pollution.

"They're just off a battery, so I just feel like getting around London and it's not omitting all this bad air. That's one of the reasons I'm using it at the moment, because the environment is such an important thing to me."